Costarican Words You Need to Know

Whether you are coming for vacation or you are considering living here part or full time, knowing some Costarican Words, especially the ones that are used often, will help make your trip easier, and funnier!

Even though the official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, Costa Rican folks have been known to have a flourish slang. The following are the most frequent words you’ll hear during your stay.

Tico/a

is the general term native people use to refer to themselves. Specifically, a Tico will be a Costa Rican man while a Tica will be a Costa Rican woman. The funny thing is that sometimes you can hear them call Costa Rica, guess what? Ticolandia!

Pura Vida

It is more than a word, it’s a way of life. Basically, it means “pure life” but, the more you know this country the more you understand it’s more of a complex and deep concept that marks every aspect of life. You’ll hear this phrase often in everyday conversation and can be used as a greeting, response, thank you, goodbye and much more. To keep things easy, it translates to mean a relaxed and carefree Costa Rican lifestyle and it’s often a sign that things are going good.

Mae

It can be translated to “dude” or “buddy”; it’s a word that regularly abused, especially among groups of young men. It is generally common among men but is also used occasionally to refer to women.

Tuanis

Pronounced /twa-nees/. It means “cool”, “awesome”. The origin of this word is unclear and some people say it was derivated from English “too nice”.

Chunche

This refers to any possible thing you can’t remember the name of. It isn’t very chic but definitely the savior of any situation. 

Vara

The second winning word after chunche. Vara is another term to refer to “thing” in a less materialistic way. While you will use chunche to refer to objects and stuffs, vara is more about abstract things.

Goma

We bet you can understand what it is just by describing the feelings; you know when you have too many glasses of wine or beer and you feel this the following day. You have a never-ending pounding head and an annoying dry mouth. What it is?

Other words that are very useful to know are those words that refer to typical places or dishes you will find here in Costa Rica.

Soda

it’s a typical local restaurant. Normally it is a small humble place that, without a doubt, won’t win the annual design competition but don’t be fooled by its appearance! Most of the time you will find the cheapest and most delicious typical food.

Pulperia

Another typical place you can find everywhere on the roads of Costa Rica and even in the smallest village is the Pulperia that could be thought of like a mini market that sells literally almost everything.

Casado

It’s one of the main typical dishes of Costa Rica that you can eat during lunch or dinner. Casado can be translated with the word “marriage” and it’s the union or rice, beans, one type of meat (chicken, beef or fish) and comes with a salad. It can vary depending on where you eat it but there will always be rice and beans. This plate of food is healthy and delicious and is the pillar of Tico cuisine.

Gallo Pinto

It’s the typical breakfast, served until 11:30am but we’ll bet that after you’ll taste it, you will be wanting to eat it for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner! Basically it’s a mix of rice and beans with veggies such as onion, peppers and the typical Lizano sauce. It is served with eggs, tortilla, fresh cheese and can’t miss a cup of hot coffee.

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